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Demanding Users Fight for Data and Privacy Protections, Wikipedia Co-Founder Calls for #SocialMediaStrike

Actions slated for July 4 and 5 would highlight call for user-controlled data and a more decentralized system

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Icons of WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Swarm, Facebook Messenger, and Gmail email service applications are seen on a screen of smart phone as the Facebook logo is seen on the background on a laptop screen in Ankara, Turkey on September 04, 2018. (Photo: Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A Wikipedia co-founder called for a social media strike on July 4 and 5 to "demand that giant, manipulative corporations give us back control over our data, privacy, and user experience."

Larry Sanger outlined the proposal a post on his personal web site last week.

A large number of people taking part in the strike, Sanger wrote, would send a message of strong support for individually-owned data—which users can choose to keep private or public—and for social media services using a "use a common, universal set of standards and protocols."

Sanger also encouraged people to sign on to his "Declaration of Digital Independence."

That manifesto says, in part,

We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security. Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly. The difficulty and divisiveness of wholesale reform means that this task is not to be undertaken lightly. For years we have approved of and even celebrated enterprise as it has profited from our communication and labor without compensation to us. But it has become abundantly clear more recently that a callous, secretive, controlling, and exploitative animus guides the centralized networks of the internet and the corporations behind them.

The declaration also accuses big tech companies of requiring "agreement to terms of service that are impossible for ordinary users to understand, and which are objectionably vague in ways that permit them to legally defend their exploitative practices."

Corporations have "marketed private data to advertisers in ways that no one would specifically assent to," wrote Sanger, and have "data-mined user content and behavior in sophisticated and disturbing ways."

"The vast power wielded by social networks of the early 21st century, putting our digital rights in serious jeopardy," Sanger wrote, "demonstrates that we must engineer new—but old-fashioned—decentralized networks that make such clearly dangerous concentrations of power impossible."

Sanger left Wikipedia in 2002, and has gone on to criticize the site of being a "broken system" that "never solved the problem of how to organize itself in a way that didn't lead to mob rule."

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